The wayward path of the supposed da Vinci painting ‘Salvator Mundi’ – which at one early point the Dallas Museum of Art was seriously considering buying – seems to have hit a dead end. The Louvre is planning a major da Vinci exhibition scheduled for this fall to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death – and the museum asked for a loan of the painting from its sister institution, the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Now, ‘The Guardian’ reports, the Louvre’s curators have decided the painting isn’t sufficiently a solo work by da Vinci to merit inclusion.
To recap some of the painting’s wayward path: In 2017, ‘Salvator Mundi’ was sold at Christie’s for $450 million. This was only after major art historians and Leonardo experts like Martin Kemp deemed the find authentic (with plenty of disagreement). Although a privately-owned work, it was shown by the National Gallery in London, which lent the heavily restored painting a degree of official approval – and that lead to the record-breaking sale. The painting’s current owner is Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (yes, that guy), who reportedly said it could become the star attraction in the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
But the display in Abu Dhabi was cancelled, and no one has seen the work since. In February, The Art Newspaper reported that the Louvre insisted it still wants ‘Salvator Mundi’ and reports to the contrary were ‘fake information.’ But this latest news comes from Ben Lewis, who tracked the painting in his book, ‘The Last Leonardo.’
One reason for all the controversy surrounding the painting: After Leonardo painted it, ‘Salvator Mundi’ became one of his more popular works with Renaissance artists creating copies and variations of it. Some experts – and this would now seem to include the Louvre’s — have concluded that if this particular ‘Salvator’ was created by Leonardo, he painted only parts of it. The rest was filled in by his assistants. Which is possibly why Lewis provides this qualification: If the Louvre does ultimately exhibit ‘Salvator Mundi,’ it’ll be listed as coming from da Vinci’s “workshop.”
Hence the dead end. If the Louvre labels it as such, Lewis says, the painting’s record-breaking value would plummet – to something more like $1.5 million.